Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Key to Revolutionizing Education


    As I was reading the first few chapters of Revisiting Professional Learning Communities at Work I found this statement about how policymakers view education and the role teachers have in improving our schools.

    Conservatives may contend that educators won't improve their schools, while liberals argue that educators can't improve their schools; but both groups seem increasingly resigned to the fact that efforts to reform schools are doomed to fail. (p. 51)

    The data the authors cite is positive,
    but it is largely based on test scores
    and graduation rates.
    Something is missing.
    Of course, the authors go on to use statistics to argue that there is evidence of widespread school improvement, despite the hopeless outlook many policymakers have. While these statistics are upbeat and fun to read, they are based on assessments: test scores, graduation rates, and how they measure up to socioeconomic data. There is something missing here: the human element. The biggest reason education continues to move forward is because of the determination of educators themselves. There is no single reform movement, technology tool, law, or regulation that is going to "revolutionize" education. Education will continue to grow, reexamine itself, make adjustments, and move forward because that is what good educators do every single day as they step into their classrooms.

    I do think there is a deeper message here about PLCs. The authors define a PLC this way:

    Educators committed to working collaboratively in ongoing processes of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. Professional learning communities operate under the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous, job-embedded learning for educators. (p. 14)

    Educators who are focused on learning, their students' and their own, are the reason education continues to improve. We aren't satisfied to use a lesson that worked once, in the same way, year after year because we know we won't have the same students year after year. We design, implement, reflect, tinker, and redesign all over again to meet our students' needs. As a result, each year we get better.

    PLCs can help that forward progress of education because it provides an opportunity to go through this continuous process of self-improvement with other educators. Teaching is a lonely profession, and PLCs provide an opportunity to change that,

    Here's one of my favorite YouTube videos about the role of technology in education reform. I think it helps explain why PLCs are a good approach to improving teacher quality. The video, like the assumption behind PLCs, insists that teachers are the most important factor for any student. We should provide teachers with the policies and tools they need, but we must remember that teachers are the element of education every student really needs. Enjoy.



    Author's Note: As I mentioned in a previous post, I am engaging in my own personalized summer PD that includes books, conferences, online engagement, and more. This is a reflection based on the first chapters of one of my summer reads. A cohort of my colleagues and I are studying professional learning communities (PLCs). This post is a part of my participation in that summer work.